Authentic Life

Share Collapse

Author Comments

After a week of a lot of thinking about and discussing Robert Nozick’s thought experiment “The Experience Machine”, I created this little clip as a response to it.

To provide some context, Nozick suggests that if given the opportunity to enter a machine that will simulate a life full of only happiness (bear in mind that once in the machine, one would not know they were in a simulation), people would choose not to do so because they prefer the “authenticity” of the “real world.” There is more nuance to it than that, but for the sake of keeping this brief we’ll leave it at that.

Now, I have a lot of problems with Nozick’s conclusion, and frankly I disagree with it entirely. Perhaps my biggest problem with the conclusion is that one of his premises that is required to validly support such a conclusion is that he assumes that his own interpretation of reality is the right one, and the only one. He uses this premise to assume that everyone would choose not to enter the Experience Machine simply because HIS reality is somehow more “authentic” than the one that exists within the machine. Nozick is so wrapped up in his own idea of what “real reality” is that he chooses to entirely ignore the fact that different people will have different ideas of what reality is, whether it be for reasons of religion, philosophy, experience, or anything else.

One thing that I should note is that I have thoroughly enjoyed every single experience I have had with Virtual Reality. I grew up with video games, and the progress I have seen that has brought us technology such as the Vive is thrilling to me. As Elon Musk has put it, video games are coming closer and closer to becoming entirely indistinguishable from reality (which he uses to defend his argument that there is an incredibly low chance that the life that we are currently experiencing is not itself a simulation, an example of a view that contradicts Nozick’s interpretation of reality). When I read the thought experiment, I immediately thought that I would not pass up the chance to enter the Experience Machine. I see no reason not to. I don’t see any justification for the idea that the reality in which we currently exist is somehow more authentic or meaningful than the one that would exist within the machine, especially given that Nozick suggests that within the machine one would have no idea that they were in a simulation. I have no idea whether or not I am in a simulation now, so the only difference I see between a life outside the machine and one within is that the Experience Machine rids us of all suffering. It provides us with a life that will be infinitely more fulfilling, exciting, and eternally happy.

I was presented with an alternative version with of the thought experiment and asked whether I would enter the Experience Machine if the amount of happiness and unhappiness inside the machine were equal to those outside the machine. My first reaction was to say “no”, and I was briefly taken aback by that thought because I began to question why I had thought that. Was Nozick right in saying that there is something other than happiness that gives this life meaning? Then I realized that the reason I would not enter the machine in that case was because I would have no incentive to do so. If the life inside the machine would be exactly equal to that of the life outside the machine, then why would I choose to deviate from the status quo? If the example was flipped, and I was told that I was indeed inside a simulation, and there was a way to get out of it, I would also choose not to leave the simulation unless I had some incentive, some justification for doing so. Therefore, my conclusions on the Experience Machine still seem to stand.

I love discussing things like this so if anyone wants to contribute to this conversation, please feel absolutely free to do so.

Thanks for watching!

Log in / sign up to vote & review!

Newgrounds accounts are free and registered users see fewer ads!

I concur that the description was more interesting than the video, nevertheless it works as a package. So I give it 4/5.
As for the discussion; I think it comes to various personal and circumstantial factors. Logically if the machine 'virtual' life = 'authentic' life, then you would incur a traveling for moving between realities (as, there is no such thing as 'free' movement). Therefore to minimize energy wastage, you may as well stay in this 'authentic' reality. Otherwise, if you were stuck in the 'virtual' reality, you would still incur a cost to move. Therefore, economically moving is not advisable in that case.

Philosophically - we are emotionally attached to that which we hold dear as reality and comfort; you will feel familiar with those who understand your experiences, places of living etc. So you must sacrifice familiarity to move to a new 'better' version with different sources of 'comfort'. It is a risk, and as humans we would be suspicious of such promises - so in reality we may stay here on earth.

That's that! Thanks for the great post and work. Keep thinking ^^ . . .

GoodL responds:

Thank you so much!

The concept that you seem to be describing there, from what i understand, is called status quo bias, meaning people will be hesitant to change from what they have always known/believed/etc. And this is something that I definitely recognize the validity in. What I think is important to note here is that I don't mean to suggest that EVERYONE would make the same choice that I would (specifically, choosing to enter the Experience Machine). Instead, a big part of my criticism of Nozick here is that he seems to suggest that everyone would make the same decision that he would, and completely overlooks, as you said, personal and circumstantial factors. He says that anyone put in that position would say no to the machine just because HE thinks there is something more to life than (or rather, intrinsic goods other than) happiness.

Another thing to consider in Nozick's experiment is that he says to assume that everyone will be entering the machines, ignoring the logistics of things like machine maintenance. So if you assume that to be the case, then I believe that for most people there wouldn't be much to the world if it were completely devoid of all other people. Considering that the world would be fundamentally changed by the existence of the Experience Machine, status quo bias would hold very little weight since the status quo would cease to exist.

Thanks again, I really appreciate all those stars and the supportive words, as well as your contribution to the discussion. It means a lot to me! :)

The description is much more interesting than animation itself, but still I think I should encourage people, who bother to offer some food for thought.

In regards to reality, "Reality is when you die" (song by Gorefest).

GoodL responds:

Hey thanks! Checked out the song, pretty nihilistically bleak outlook on death (which definitely has it's place, I'm not saying that to discredit that viewpoint at all). I think particularly interesting are the lyrics "It wasn't real life, In fact just a play...", which expresses an idea in this context that many people in various societies today tend to just stick to the mould and be who they're told to be, rather than truly living. Also I like the idea insinuated by the title, especially because it is fairly pertinent to my understanding of what happens in the brain when a body dies. I'm a pretty big fan of the speculated concept (I say speculated because this isn't a "proven" theory and might not be a particularly well-accepted belief) that the pineal gland releases a large quantity of N,N-DMT as the body dies, which would result in a dream like state that, effectively from the perspective of the person dying, would in fact be eternity.

There's an interesting clip in the film "Waking Life" in which there are two people lying in bed talking about consciousness, and one person says to the other that the last few minutes of brain activity would be very similar to what happens when you wake up at, say, 10:15, and then fall asleep and have this immensely elaborate dream with plot lines and all, then wake up again to find that it's 10:17. It means that those last few minutes of life in the brain are not only going to seem extremely elongated, but because there's no clear consensus on what happens after that (that's where religions come in) that "dream" will last forever. Interesting stuff, if you ask me.

Anyway, thanks again for all those stars and the music recommendation! Always appreciated.

Credits & Info

3.00 / 5.00

Sep 9, 2017
3:07 PM EDT